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Apologists or Extremists

Ahmed Bedier

Updated March 6, 2009

Ahmed Bedier is the founder and past executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Bedier left the position in May of 2008 after five years of service to CAIR.[1] He now serves as the president of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council[2] and has created an organization called United Voices for America.[3] According to the organization's website, United Voices "is a non-profit non-partisan civic engagement organization dedicated to increasing the participation of ethnic and religious minorities in the political process."[4]

However, a look at Bedier's past statements shows his sympathies with designated terrorist organizations, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas, and with accused terrorist supporters – even after they admit their crimes. In addition, he equates acts of terrorism and has offered false information.

Moral Equivalence on Terrorism

Speaking about the 2005 film "Munich," which depicts Israel's attempt to hunt down and kill the terrorists who slaughtered Israeli Olympic athletes in 1972, Bedier said:

"The only difference between what these so-called Mossad-sponsored assassins and other terrorists – they both use the similar means. They make bombs and they blow up people and they kill innocent civilians in the meantime. Violence begets violence. The policy has not worked and I'm glad that people like Steven Spielberg have produced a movie to raise questions about these certain policies of killing individuals. Especially without due process, without providing the evidence."[5]

Blaming Israel for the Gaza War While Ignoring Hamas Rocket Fire

Bedier co-hosts a talk show on Tampa community radio station WMNF. During the January 23, 2009 broadcast of "True Talk," Bedier called Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip "terrorism."[6]

Additionally, he and co-host Samar Jarrah say the war on terrorism should attempt to halt the Israeli bombings of Gaza. First, a clip of President Obama's inaugural address is played in which Obama said:

"And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you." [Emphasis added]

Coming out of the clip, Bedier asked, "Does that include terror in Gaza?" Jarrah responded, "Not the terrorists in Gaza." Bedier then asked a very similar question to emphasize his point, "Or the terrorism that happened in Gaza." Jarrah responded, "of course not."[7]

Earlier that month, during a debate on WMNF radio, Bedier argued that any effort to target Hamas would endanger civilians:[8]

"And every time they say Hamas is using this as a base, Hamas is using that as a base. Well Gaza's very crowded. No matter where you're gonna go you're gonna find some Hamas people there. But that does not justify the killing and targeting of any innocent civilians."[9]

That misrepresents the reality in Gaza, where Hamas deliberately stores its explosives in mosques and in residential areas and otherwise uses human shields.[10]

In a debate on the Gaza war held in Tampa February 20, Bedier said "We can all agree that Hamas is a terrorist group." But in doing so, he described Israeli military responses to Hamas bombing as " Nazi-like tactics."[11]

During the January 16th 2009 broadcast of "True Talk" Bedier argued that Hamas is powerless to stop rocket fire from the Gaza strip into Israel, while condemning resulting fire from Israel into Gaza. When a caller asked why Hamas or the Palestinians in charge did not stop people who shot rockets and comments that the Palestinian Authority is not trying to prevent the terrorists from lobbing rockets into Israel, Bedier said:

"So wait, wait, let me get this argument right. So Israel with its mighty army, the strongest army and military, with its biggest weapons in the whole region cannot stop the rockets, but you expect defenseless, helpless poverty stricken Palestinians to go and stop the rockets. Are you making any sense? Are you making sense?"[12]

Refusal to Condemn the Palestinian Islamic Jihad

At a May 27, 2004 CAIR-Tampa press conference concerning University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, who was facing charges of aiding the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Bedier was asked:

"Do you agree with the government designation of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a terrorist organization?"

He responded:

"We are not here to discuss the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any other terrorist organization or any other group. We are here strictly to discuss the confinement conditions of this individual who is not in Palestine or in Israel. He is right here in Florida."

Bedier was also asked whether CAIR had a position on the PIJ, a designated terrorist organization responsible for scores of deaths, including several Americans. "We have not published one," he said.[13]

On December 8, 2005, Bedier appeared on a local Tampa show, "Your Turn with Kathy Fountain," on WTVT to discuss the verdict in the federal prosecution of Al-Arian. The host asked him, "If he was associating with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, doesn't that seem immoral, in your opinion?"

Bedier replied: "To a certain degree. Now, before 1995 there was nothing immoral about it."[14]

On Hizbollah

Again on WTVT in Tampa, Bedier minimized that Hizbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, citing, in his opinion, Israel's lack of respect for Lebanon:

"I think there's a - what did Hizbollah do in this latest incident. They captured two soldiers. Since when does Israel recognize the boundaries and borders of other sovereign states? They cross it all the time."[15]

He also stated that Israel behaved like a terror state, and he did not condemn Lebanon or Hizbollah's actions:

"Irresponsible rogue states, terror states like Israel, that's how they behave. And that's unacceptable for Israel to do that."[16]

On Hamas

During the WMNF debate, Bedier blamed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely on Israel:

"Israel has a history of habitually choosing violence over dialogue. Why? Because they're the stronger party. Israel is the mightiest army in the region and the 4th strongest army in the world. Who are they picking on? The defenseless, helpless, Palestinian people in the Gaza strip, how ridiculous is that? They always choose violence because they are the stronger party, thinking that through their strength, through their might, through their weapons, they're gonna get their way."

Hamas, he said, had moderated:

"Hamas which had been historically staying away from politics, and using violence and other means, decided for the first time in 13 years, after the Oslo agreements to join the political process. So here they are, they're moderating themselves they're finally thinking let's give this politics a try. And they come out the winners."[17]

Hamas has not moderated in its charter, which still contains rabid anti-Semitism in calling for Israel's destruction and rejecting any negotiated peace.[18] Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005.[19] The new Hamas "moderation" resulted in thousands of indiscriminate rocket launches at Israeli cities.[20]

On the assassination of Hamas co-founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin

CAIR issued a press release titled "CAIR Condemns Israeli Assassination of Religious Leader." CAIR-Florida reprinted this press release on its website listing Bedier as the contact.[21]

The release stated:

"We condemn this violation of international law as an act of state terrorism by Ariel Sharon's out-of-control government. Israel's extra-judicial killing of an Islamic religious leader can only serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence throughout the region. The international community must now take concrete steps to help protect the Palestinian people against such wanton Israeli violence."[22]

Defending Terror Supporters

On Sami Al-Arian

Al-Arian was indicted for conspiracy to provide material support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Prosecutors alleged Al-Arian, then a University of South Florida professor, was on the PIJ governing board and played a critical role in keeping the organization from disintegrating in 1994.[23] Following the arrest, Bedier told the Christian Science Monitor that the case merely was "an effective tool to silence anti-Israeli views in the country." [24]

In December 2005, Al-Arian was acquitted on eight counts against him, while jurors deadlocked on nine other charges, including the material support count.[25] In April 2006, Al-Arian pled guilty to conspiring to provide goods and services to the Jihad.[26]

As part of the plea agreement, Al-Arian admitted that he "performed services for the PIJ in 1995 and thereafter" and that he was "aware that the PIJ achieved its objectives by, among other means, acts of violence."[27]

After the plea deal was announced, but before details were released, Bedier mischaracterized the plea agreement. Contradicting the assertion of Al-Arian's attorney that Al-Arian had in fact pled guilty to terrorism-related charges, in an interview with the Tampa Tribune:

Al-Arian "stayed true to his convictions - he stayed true he wasn't going to plead to those issues…There is no conspiracy to support terrorism."[28]

On Ahmed Mohamed, who later pled guilty to providing material support for terrorists

When University of South Florida students Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed were stopped by police in South Carolina in August of 2007, police found in their possession materials to make a pipe bomb. They also noticed Megahed hastily close a laptop that had been open on his lap.[29] Bedier, CAIR-Tampa's spokesman at the time, defended the two students excusing them as nothing more than "naive kids." Bedier added that he believed the materials were only leftover fireworks that Megahed had kept in his trunk since July and emphasized that he thought "if they didn't do anything wrong they need to be released."[30]

"Most people will tell you if these were some good old boys from South Carolina traveling through the highway of that county and getting pulled over and having some fireworks, I doubt that it would make news around the world," Bedier said.[31]

"No acts of terrorism are alleged; that is not even an issue."[32]

In fact, Mohamed entered a guilty plea in June 2008 to one count of providing material support to terrorists. On his laptop, investigators found videos of bombing attacks on U.S. military vehicles and a 12-minute video produced by Mohamed in which he detonated a remote control bomb. On the video, he said a remote controlled explosion allows someone to "preserve his life" rather than carrying out a suicide bombing. [33]

On his web blog, Bedier minimized the plea, saying "Mohamed chose to cut a plea to one count of material support, which carries of a maximum of 15 years in prison, rather than risk spending the REMAINDER OF HIS LIFE behind bars if convicted."[34]

Megahed has pleaded not guilty to charges he illegally transported explosives. His trial is scheduled for later this month.

On Stoning Women

Bedier appeared on a public television panel to criticize the documentary "Islam vs. Islamists," which aired in August 2007. In discussing a scene in which a woman is stoned as punishment, he incorrectly argues that the practice no longer exists and is never government sanctioned.

Bedier: Now, obviously the images we saw there, we don't know the circumstances of who is being stoned, how long ago these images were. But if you just look at the religious text itself, when it comes to adultery, the punishment is on both men and women. That's number 1. The second thing is, in order to convict someone on adultery, you have to have four eyewitnesses - who witnessed the actual intercourse happening. So you have to be like a porn star to get convicted. And they didn't indicate that. So it's almost impossible to prove [unintelligible] and let me tell you the punishment for whoever accuses a man or a woman of adultery and does not have four witnesses, they get 70 lashes. That's the punishment.

Host Rob Lorei: But is this the kind of punishment that the four of you would sanction? Would you sanction stoning? Would you sanction lashing?

Bedier: It's definitely not government sanctioned …that punishment is not carried out these days. You never hear about it.[35]

By questioning the circumstances, Bedier implies there are conditions under which stoning is acceptable.

In fact, an Iranian woman was reported stoned to death a month earlier.[36] Amnesty International routinely monitors nations that sentence people to punishments of stoning. In October 2005, the human rights group issued a statement expressing its horror that Iran continues to pass sentences of stoning "despite having announced a moratorium on such executions."[37]

On his approach to political action:

" … [L]obbying and advocacy is like sales. You wanna sell a product you have to sell it. Nobody is going to come buy your product just because you have it if nobody knows about it ... AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] and some of these other groups that are raising money to advocate for their position, their pro-Israel position, are having to spend millions and millions of dollars to be able to sell a shady product. They're selling a lemon, they're selling the worst product in the world. A product that creates more violence, a product that creates more insecurity, a product that doesn't create any type of peace, a losing product that is going downhill that you have to pump more and more money into it in order to save it, but that's what they're selling, and that's why every year they have to raise more and more money to convince and fool more and more people of the shady product."[38]

[Emphasis added throughout]


[1] "Tampa CAIR director steps down to start new project," St. Petersburg Times, May 19, 2008, http://blogs.tampabay.com/breakingnews/2008/05/tampa-cair-dire.html.

[2] "Tampa CAIR director steps down to start new project," St. Petersburg Times, May 19, 2008, http://blogs.tampabay.com/breakingnews/2008/05/tampa-cair-dire.html.

[3] Articles of Incorporation, United Voices for America, Florida Secretary of State, May 8, 2008.

[4] United Voices for America, http://www.unitedvoices.com/.

[5] Ahmed Bedier appearance on Fox News, December 2005, posted to Youtube by Bedier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUQ8FzfE9z4 (last accessed March 2, 2009).

[6] Ahmed Bedier and Samar Jarrah, True Talk, WMNF 88.5 FM, Tampa, January 23, 2009.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Debate, Ahmed Bedier and Ben Cohen, WMNF 88.5 FM, Tampa, January 7, 2009.

[9] Ibid.

[10]"Gazans Tell How Hamas Used Them As Human Shields: Among others, an ambulance driver said that during Operation Cast Lead Hamas operatives used ambulances to leave battle sites, a tactic familiar from the past," Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center, January 28, 2009.

[11] "Conflicts and Peace Initiatives in the Middle East," Tiger Bay Club of Tampa, February 20, 2009.

[12] Ahmed Bedier and Samar Jarrah, True Talk, WMNF 88.5 FM, Tampa, January 16, 2009.

[13] Tampa CAIR Press Conference, Tampa Federal Courthouse, Tampa, Florida, May 27, 2004

[14] "Your Turn with Kathy Fountain," WTVT Fox, Tampa, December 8, 2005.

[15] Ahmed Bedier. "World's Response to Lebanon." FOX's Your Turn. June 20, 2006.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Debate, Ahmed Bedier and Ben Cohen, WMNF 88.5 FM, Tampa, January 7, 2009.

[18] The Hamas Charter reads: "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [endowment] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. " available at http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm

[19] Jefferson Morley, "Israel Withdrawal from Gaza Explained," Washington Post, August 10, 2005.

[20] Steve Schippert, "Gaza Descends Under Hamas," ThreatsWatch.org, May 21, 2007, http://threatswatch.org/analysis/2007/05/gaza-descends-under-hamas/ (accessed March 6, 2009).

[21] "CAIR Condemns Israeli Assassination of Religious Leader," CAIR Press Release, March 22, 2004, http://www.cair-florida.org/ViewArticle.asp?Code=PR&ArticleID=192, accessed May 17, 2004.

[22] Ibid.

[23] USA v. Al-Arian, 8:03CR77, Indictment, (FLMD February 20, 2003).

[24] Warren Richey and Linda Feldmann, "Has Post 9/11 Dragnet Gone Too Far?" Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 12, 2003

[25] USA v. Al-Arian, 8:03CR77, Verdict (FLMD December 6, 2005).

[26] USA v. Al-Arian, 8:03CR77, Plea Agreement (FLMD April 14, 2006).

[27] Ibid., p. 11.

[28] Elaine Silvestrini, "Al-Arian To Be Deported," Tampa Tribune, April 15, 2006, http://www.tampatrib.com/MGB4QU3F1ME.html.

[29]Valerie Kalfrin, "2 USF Students Remain Jailed In S. Carolina," The Tampa Tribune, August 8, 2007, http://www.tbo.com/news/metro/MGBHGH8135F.html.

[30] Andy Paras,"2 held in explosives scare; Islamic leaders says men are college students on road trip," The Charleston Post and Courier, August 5, 2007, http://www.charleston.net/news/2007/aug/05/possible_bomb_scare_shuts_down_goose_creek_highway/.

[31] Audrey Hudson, "High Bonds set in 'pipe bomb' case; Islamic support group contends car was only carrying fireworks," The Washington Times, August 8, 2007.

[32] Ibid.

[33] US v. Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, Plea Agreement, 8:07cr342, Middle District of Florida, June 13, 2008.

[34] "Bedier's Reaction to USF's Ahmed Mohamed Plea," http://ahmedbedier.blogspot.com/2008/06/bediers-reaction-to-usfs-ahmed-mohamed.html, June 13, 2008.

[35] Ahmed Bedier. "Islam vs. Islamists Panel," WEDU Television, Tampa, August 23, 2007.

[36] "Amnesty International outraged at reported stoning to death and fears for victim's co-accused," Amnesty International, July 9, 2007.

[37] "Iran: Death Sentences of juvenile offenders and stoning sentences continue to be passed," Amnesty International, October 20, 2005, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/063/2005/en/EBtxz_mXMUYJ (last accessed March 3, 2009).

[38] Ahmed Bedier, MAS Freedom Dallas and American Muslims for Palestine event Commemorating 60th Anniversary of Palestinian Catastrophe, Plano, Texas, June 29, 2008.